Photo Finish

Your Junk my Happy Zone
by Brandon Corbett

We've all told someone, "I play Wiffleball," before, and we've all seen the bewildered, quizzical look on the people's faces to which that statement has been told. Because of that there's even a long-running joke around the Wiffle community that the only thing more embarrassing than admitting you play Wiffleball is to proclaim that you're good at Wiffleball. This is all due, mainly, to the fact that most laymen see Wiffle as child's play: a small step up from your seven-year-old-self tossing up a rock and hitting it with the stick you found laying next to said rock. Fair enough, I enjoy that game quite a bit. However, the reality is those backyard games that most remember playing as kids now have as much in common with Major League Baseball - which we were emulating back then - as they do the brands of Wiffleball being played around the globe today.

Still, that's a very difficult reality to convey to outsiders. Our friends over in the OCWA recently did the Wiffle-world a great service in that regard by creating this side-by-side video comparison of a batter's reaction time when facing a Wiffleball pitcher to that when facing an MLB pitcher. In the Wiffle corner is Ryan Bush, 2012 NWLA Player of the Year and 2012 NWLA Tournament MVP. In the MLB corner is Aroldis Chapman throwing his record breaking 105mph fastball. Spoiler alert: in the boxing metaphor it's a perfectly fitting double KO. But it really lends itself better to racing terminology... a photo finish!

"If anyone tells you that wiffleball is easy, just show them this video. For anyone who doesn't recognize the guy on the right, that's Aroldis Chapman's record breaking 105-mph pitch." - Justin Tomkins

Bingo Bango

  by Carl Coffee
Jason Hollister joined the Belgian Wiffles in the 2013 season and quickly made a lot of noise. The outspoken rookie was a part of the opening night games in Detroit where he went 5 for 8 which earned him a Munson. He later was traded to King Friday and helped the team stay in the playoff hunt until the last week. After it was all said and done, Jason had a very nice season and established himself as a very fine role player. What the league doesn’t know is Jason’s interesting past. A past so dark and strange, it is hard for me to write about.

Jason grew up in Gibraltar, MI, graduated from Carlson High School, and was semi-popular. The jocks liked him and the nerds didn’t hate him, so he was accepted in every social clique. After graduating in 2010, he was bored with his mundane life, so he decided it was time for
Jason Hollister, captain of the Wolfpack, during his days as Bango
a change. He didn’t know what he wanted to change, he just knew it needed to be something dangerous or exciting, or even twisted.

One boring afternoon, it finally hit him. Jason wanted to become a prostitute. At the time, male prostitution was a pretty popular profession thanks to the down economy, and that worried Jason. After more research, he found out that there were no clown prostitutes in the Metro Detroit area, so he would have no competition.

No one grows up in hopes of being an underground clown prostitute, but Jason didn’t care. For the first time in his life, he was doing something exciting. After he was done with his college classes or his job at the local Meijer, Jason would lock himself in his bathroom, apply his makeup, put on his goofy clothes and clown shoes, and would hit the town.

The first few months were very discouraging for Jason but he never gave up. Two out of every five people are afraid of clowns, so Jason only had 60% of people to work with. He sometimes wondered if he should leave prostitution and instead focus on children parties or even join the circus, but he stuck it out. He later gave himself a name, “Bango the Clown”, but that didn’t help much either.

It was the spring of 2012, and Jason finally caught a break. After roaming the streets of Melvindale one night, a Bachelorette Party Bus saw Bango and picked him up. These girls were drunk, but they knew the ‘bride to be’ had a twisted fascination with clowns, a twisted sexual fascination actually. Bango let the girls know his fee, and they paid up so their friend could have Bango for the rest of the night. Bango and the ‘bride to be’ did weird sexual clown stuff all night, and in the morning he went on his way.

Jason was on top of the world, but something happened that night. He developed feelings for this mystery girl. He was very discouraged and knew the #1 rule of prostitution was to never fall for one of your clients, and he fell for his first and only client. Jason was upset and burned his clown attire and threw away his makeup. Never again would he become Bango, never again would he sell his body. He was done.

The rest of 2012 was uneventful for Jason, and it wasn’t until his co-worker Jason Matt invited him to play wiffleball, where he was truly happy again. The rest of the league may look at Jason and see a quick witted role player who occasionally has a big game, but now you can look at him and see something else. You can now look at Jason Hollister and see a retired underground clown prostitute.

The Charm

  by Brandon Corbett
Third time is the charm. This just completed WSEM Championship Series was the first ever to be played out properly, and as a result the first time the Commissioner's Cup was handed out at the field. Wicked Aces in four was the odds on favorite at 3:1, and that is exactly what happened. Still, the series was not without its unexpected turns.

We can start right with the setup of the series. During the season 87% of games were played on the the weekend: 50% on Sundays, 37% on Saturdays. With that the 2013 Championship Series is an oddball right from drawing table, as 50% of it was played on a weeknight. On top of that, the title was won on a Monday night in Ottawa Lake - the first Monday games of the entire 2013 campaign. Call it a special occasion for a special moment.

The little oddities found their way onto the field, too. The two teams seemed to have a gentlemen's arrangement made between them, since both rosters played half of the series without one of their best bats in lineup. El Diablos opened the series up last Sunday at Pervis Memorial without Kyle Tomlinson, 2012 Rookie of the Year and 2013 MVP candidate. In turn, Joel Crozier, who had provided late inning heroics twice during the 2013 playoffs already (including once in the championship), was unavailable for the back half of the series at Poolside Park. The additional curious note here, obviously, is that both guys missed the set of games at their home field.

The bats of Kyle and Joel were not the only notable absence either. Aces captain Austin Bischoff also was M.I.A. for the final two games of the series on Monday night. This left his little brother, Evan Bischoff, to handle the Aces remaining three-man roster. That leaves us with a pair of interesting quirks: one, the first time the Commissioner's Cup was presented on-field it was handed to an acting captain; two, the ensuing on-field celebration with the Cup was enjoyed by only three men. I guess good things do come in threes.

Finally, the predictions for a pitching dominated series with frequent trips to extra innings seemed to be spot on at the start. Games 1 and 2 both went into extras tied at zero. The Aces led the way in hitting with a .133 AVG, while El Diablos hit just .048. The back half of the series saw the offensive numbers take a big jump, though. Led by Nicco Lollio's 3 hits, El Diablos jumped nearly 100 points to .147 as a team. Meanwhile, the Aces finally pushed over the Mendoza line with a .206 AVG. It was the six hit performance by Evan Bortmas at Poolside that rallied the Aces. After going 0-12 in the first two games, Bortmas hit .462 in the final two and led the Aces to a sound victory in game 4.

The teams showed up. The series happened. It played out the way it was designed. Yet still, with all that said, some weird stuff went down.


Launching Pads

There were 222 home runs hit in the 2013 season; 55 more than in 2012. The black bats did their job and brought the swagger back! There's more to it than just the hardware, though. Where those home runs came at brings just as much intrigue; especially with how frequently terms or phrases like "bandbox," "short porch," "Polo Grounds," "no man's land," "wind assisted," "impossible," "deep as shit," and "seriously, why would you build this?" get thrown around. Our use of home fields certainly lends a great deal of variation in style of play when it comes to the long ball - or small ball.

On the above chart, the gold bars show the total number of home runs hit at each field in 2013. The team colored section of each bar indicates the number of home runs hit by the home team. The eight fields that finished the year are included, as well as the two fields Westside and Belgian had to abandon midseason; these two are sequestered to the right hand side in the slightly darkened section. The parenthetical number below the field name notes how many games were played there during the 2013 season. So, the graph allows us to look at not only which fields were the most home run happy, but also which provided the best home field advantage.

Field HR/G H:V Ratio
Wiff-Hill 3.50 .04
Reservation 3.40 .48
Make-Believe 3.25 .77
Swamp 2.29 4.33
Pervis Mem. 1.71 7.00
Holy Grounds 1.58 .73
Island 1.57 .47
Poolside 1.00 9.00
Wiffle Iron 2.33 .08
Warriors Den 0 --
To no one's surprise - based on its 68' RF and 74' LF fence - the The Field of Make-Believe surrendered the most ding dongs in WSEM, 39. What might be slightly surprising, though, as seen in the table to the right, is that it ranks third in home runs allowed per game. Also regarded as a launching pad, The Reservation is second on both charts: giving up 34 HR, 3.4 per game. While short dimensions led to Make-Believe's high number, it was a steady stream of strong tailwinds that inflated the Reservations home run tally. In fact, 25 of its 34 HR given up came in just two series: when El Diablos and Holy Balls visited town.

Wiff-Hill Grounds only saw 8 games, yet still managed to give up 28 HR, fourth most in the league. This gives it the honor of edging out the Reservation for highest number of home runs per game, with 3.5. What's noteworthy here is how Wiff-Hill managed to play even smaller than its predecessor, the tiny Wiffle Iron, which itself gave up 14 HR in just 6 games.

On the other end of the spectrum, Poolside Park's 10 HR surrendered seems on the low side with the relatively short right field. Of course, you have to account for the Aces pitching staff in that number. You could also cite only 10 games played, however, Poolside still has the lowest HR/G: just 1.0. The next two stingiest fields are just 1/100th off in HR/G. They also both share a massive three-level backstop in center field. These near-twins, The Island and Holy Grounds, surprise nobody by being pitcher friendly parks: 90' lines, power alleys at 100+', and cavernous center fields.

Looking at the other number in the table, home-to-visitor HR ratio, and the colors on the bar graph, it is apparent that there is no real home field advantage when it comes to the power numbers. Five of the eight - or six of the nine - fields surrendered more than half of their dingers to visiting teams. Belgian's two fields were by far the most hospitable to guests, never bringing their selfish ratio above .08. The Island and The Reservation are the next most guest-friendly environments. They both gave up just over 2 homes to visitors for every 1 hit by the home club. Holy Grounds and Make-Believe fair a little better, but still spot the journeymen about 1.5 HR for every 1 for the good guys.

Three fields truly claim the title "friendly confines" when it comes to the long ball, though. One of those is the The Swamp. Led by Pearson's bat, the Ducks hit 4.33 HR on their home turf for every one given up: 81% of the home runs came off the bats of the home team. That's not the best advantage, though. Pervis Memorial said adiĆ³s to 7 El Diablos long balls for every one by a visitor; giving the home colors a whopping 88% of the tally. Still not the best advantage. As mentioned earlier, Poolside Park gave up a total of 10 home runs on the year. All but one of those were hit by the Aces! So, 90% of the souvenirs kids took home were given out by the good guys. Both rare and classy.

There we have it: a bit of everything from one end to the other for all types of players and observers. A few launching pads for fans of the long ball, a couple death valleys for old-school fans of manufacturing runs, and just enough home cooking to get your fill. I guess there's only one thing left to do: ask the question on everyone's mind.

"Who would have won that game if we'd played it somewhere else?"

Matthias Danczafus

  by Carl Coffee
Every member of WSEM has a story of how they joined the league. Some stories are interesting, some are lame, and for a small few, some are astounding. For one member, a man by the name of Matthias Danczafus, his story is miraculous.

June of 1992 was like any month for the Amish people located in Berks County, PA. The days were long, which meant more daylight for chores and cropping. A loving couple, Hermathis and Mary Ellen were expecting their eleventh child, and he was born healthy and happy. Matthias was a joy to Hermathis and Mary Ellen, and he grew up excited to follow in his father’s footsteps.

When Matthias turned 16, he was given the opportunity to experience rumspringa, which is a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish community during which a youth temporarily leaves the community to experience life in the outside world. While many of his peers went to New York City or Philadelphia, Matthias went to Shelton, CT, the home of Wiffle ®.

You see, although nobody in his community ever knew about it, Matthias had a secret love for Wiffleball. One day when he was 11 years old, Matthias wandered off and found some young boys around his age playing this silly game at a neighboring farm. They explained to him it was called Wiffleball, and they let him join in. In Matthias’ first at bat, this 11 year old Amish boy hit a home run over a barn that these kids never saw happen before. Matthias was also a pitching phenom. He pitched a perfect game in his first ever appearance on a mound. He invented a pitch called the ‘Amish Answer’. It was a combination fastball/curveball/slider/riser/knuckle/sinker. It was unhittable.

Up until 2008 Matthias secretly kept playing with the neighboring boys until it was time for his rumspringa. He packed up his horse and buggy, and made the long pilgrimage to Shelton. During his voyage, Matthias dreamed of what his new life would be like on the outside world. His Wiffleball playing friends told him he was the best they have ever seen, and Matthias started to believe it. Unfortunately, 50 miles away from Shelton, tragedy struck.

It was early in the morning, and Matthias was ready to make one last leg to get to Shelton. It was still dark out, and unfortunately the reflector on the back of his buggy had fallen off. A speeding truck never saw him, and Matthias was thrown into a river and floated away. His body was never found after seven days of searching, and he was pronounced dead.

Matthias floated and floated until he somehow ended up on the shores of Lake Erie in southeast Michigan. He had pretty bad amnesia and had very little recollection of his previous life. He didn’t remember his days living as an Amish, nor did he remember his love for wiffleball. He somehow remembered parts of his name, and told people his name was Matt Dancza. Matt was able to live a somewhat normal life for the next five years working at Meijer and making new friends.

It is now 2013 and as you can see, Matt is playing Wiffleball again for the Belgian Wiffles. Nobody knows if he will ever remember his old life. What we do know is he is once again playing the sport he loved. He has even pitched a little bit. We haven’t seen the ‘Amish Answer’ yet, but when we do, I am sure it will be miraculous.